IRVING, Texas—Just as the NFL hoped a critical mistake by replacement officials would not swing the balance of a game, the league now has to hope the botched outcome of Monday’s Packers-Seahawks game doesn’t swing the balance of the standings such that it affects the playoffs.
The Fail Mary as many have called it Monday – Russell Wilson’s touchdown pass to Golden Tate on the final play of the game – no doubt spurred along talks between the officials and NFL resulting in a labor agreement Wednesday night.
Now, it’s back to football with regular crews working this week’s games, including the Cleveland-Baltimore game on Thursday night.
“We hope the whole thing is behind us now because we played with the regular officials on Thursday night and did a good job,” the NFL’s executive vice president of operations Ray Anderson told me this morning at a hotel where the officials were meeting. “Part of our message to this crew was we are delighted to have them back and we’re excited about this weekend’s slate of games so we can get back to pure football.”
But is the NFL concerned the Green Bay-Seattle game will have a significant impact on the postseason?
“We are not overly concerned,” Anderson said. “That was the third week of the season. We have 13 more weeks to go. There are a lot of things that impact how teams do overall, including their own performances. We will let that natural laws of the NFL take care of themselves and we’ll see where we are at the end of the year.”
One of the wins for the league in negotiations was the creation of a developmental system to get future officials ready. It will allow the NFL to replace underperforming officials as typically the turnover for the 121 officials has only been about four or five a year, almost always because of retirement.
“There is nothing better for human nature and motivation than competition for positions and accountability for your performance and that is what having a bench, having a development squad will provide for us long term,” Anderson said. “We think it will make us better because everyone is going to be motivated to work hard to get that field time.
“Part of being able to make sure that you can control the quality is to have something more than retirement motivating you to perform and that is competition for your starting field time. That is good for all of us long term. That is better for the integrity of the game.”
Some would argue three weeks with replacement officials was quite damaging to the integrity of the game.
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune